Prudhomme calls for ‘strongest possible sanctions’ for mechanical doping

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Echoing calls made on Tuesday by France’s National Cycling League (LNC), Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme has said the UCI needs to introduce the ‘strongest possible’ sanctions for anyone found linked to mechanical doping.

The subject of hidden motors in bikes is high on the agenda after a bike connected to a Belgian under 23 rider, Femke Van den Driessche, was found to contain a hidden motor at last month’s world cyclocross championships.

This case is currently before the UCI’s disciplinary commission, with a final decision expected in the coming weeks.

On Tuesday the LNC’s chairman Marc Madiot issued a letter calling on the UCI to “implement all necessary means to immediately stop all attempted fraud.” He said that the LNC, which includes professional teams, race organisers and others, wanted a lifetime ban to be introduced.

“We demand, as soon as possible, systematic controls and the strengthening of sanctions, suspension for life, against all those involved in these scams,” the letter stated.

It also said that the LNC reserved the right “to take action for justice and to preserve the integrity of our sport.”

This followed calls on Monday from the chairman of the professional rider’s association (CPA), Gianni Bugno, who said that the riders in the peloton all wanted heavy punishments to be in place.

The UCI’s current rules state that those found guilty of using or facilitating the use of hidden motors should receive a minimum six month ban plus a financial penalty of 20,000 to 200,000 Swiss francs for the rider in question and 100,000 to one million Swiss francs for any teams involved.

On Wednesday Prudhomme joined the discussion, telling AFP that systematic controls and stringent penalties were necessary.

“It is necessary beyond doubt that the international federation (the UCI) take strong measures, which are necessary and which are not, it seems, if you believe the words of Brian Cookson, so difficult to take. He speaks of a system which is easy to put in place and which is not costly. So let’s go!

“We are naturally in favour of systematic controls and sanctions that are the strongest possible to nip in the bud any hint of fraud and trickery. It is necessary to ask for hard things, the UCI will decide.”

He reiterated recent statements that this was crucial to sort out, and was more important than the ongoing tension between ASO and the UCI over the WorldTour reforms that the latter plans to introduce.

Earlier this month Prudhomme said that ASO would not engage in any peace talks unless it felt that the UCI was taking the motor problem seriously.

Since the Van den Driessche case broke on January 30, Cookson has said that the UCI will do what it takes to tackle the issue. He said recently that if it was deemed necessary, the governing body would consider testing every bike used in races.

One such method of detection is measuring magnetic resistance, something that is possible via handheld tablet computers. A total of 90 bikes were tested last week on the second stage of the La Me?diterrane?enne race.

Six teams were involved, namely Delko, Roubaix-Lille Métropole, Auber 93, Bardiani, Androni Giocattoli and Veranclassic. No motors were found.

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